Participating in the OHSU iCHEE program this term has been a real eye-opener. I learned a lot of little things that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise thought about. I really enjoyed meeting other students, OHSU faculty, and clients. I found that the multi disciplinary approach worked really well—and I loved working with my team. Everyone drew on their field of knowledge, and together we were able to answer the questions of the clients pretty well. I also really liked the fact that iCHEE is not a clinic—the emphasis was really on talking to your client, getting to know them as a person, and then seeing if there was anything we could do to help them
Team Focus: One of my favorite things about the iCHEE program is that you work in groups from the very beginning. It was great to meet other students from all the schools at OHSU—everyone had different backgrounds, interests, and education level. For example, my group had a first year med student, third year pharmacy student, third year dental student, and me (a third year nursing student)… so we had a whole mix of experience. Our medical student was the one in our group that was fluent in Spanish, so that was primarily how my group communicated with Spanish-only speaking clients. This communication piece was another thing I learned a lot about…for some clients, I couldn’t speak directly to them—I had to ask the medical student to tell the client something for me. This experience made me realize how challenging it can be to care for clients/patients who don’t speak the same language as I do. I realize now how careful you have to be to make sure your message gets translated accurately. It wasn’t too difficult for me since our translator was a med student and understands “medical talk”…but it’s a whole different story if your translator doesn’t have a medical background. So I felt very fortunate to have a team member who spoke Spanish and was really good about sharing information from the client with the rest of the team. Seriously though, now I can’t wait to graduate from nursing school so I can go back to school and learn Spanish!
I was surprised by how much our pharmacy student knew! She asked the client all the right questions, knew about community resources, and obviously knew a ton about medications and pharmacy stuff. She was a very valuable part of our team! Another fun fact—I taught our medical student how to measure blood pressure! At first he would do it on one arm, and then I would check it on the other arm to make sure he measured correctly. This was great practice for him—and I loved sharing my skills. So I think that we functioned very well together. I feel like I’ve gotten a taste of what it’s going to be like after graduation—it’s been good practice to consult with people from medicine, dental, pharmacy, and nutritional services.
The Clients: I have never had the opportunity to work primarily with Spanish speaking Hispanic men before this class. I learned a lot about cultural awareness and heard some interesting ideas about non-medical health practices. One example that comes to mind was when a client told us how his finger got severely cut… so his cure was to burn a cloth, take the ashes, mix them with spider web, and then put that mixture over the wound and covered it. That was his story about caring for the wound. I was fascinated by his story, and also surprised because in my mind if you get hurt- you go to a doctor… but it’s not quite that simple for many of the men in this population. Money, transportation, lack of insurance, and language barrier are all factors that often inhibit these men from seeing a medical provider. I found myself wishing that I could fix all the situations that contained obstacles… but I guess that wasn’t really my focus in the first place. The goal was to exchange information between students and clients. The client would often share details about life, circumstances, family, health, etc. And in exchange, we as students, would talk about our schools, lives, and offer information that might help to improve their circumstances and health. I found it really enjoyable to get to know these guys and build a relationship with them. They were always welcoming and very kind!
Healthcare: Even though I’m going into the healthcare field for my career, I still don’t feel like I know all that much about the way our healthcare is run… in terms of insurance and government involvement. Though I have learned this term that access to healthcare is a big issue for a lot of people! A few of the clients we saw had OHP insurance and a medical provider… but the majority hadn’t been to see a doctor or dentist in years. We had a list of clinics in the area that we could refer people to… but even those cost money, don’t always have openings, and might not be within walking distance. So as a team, we found ourselves trying to draw maps of Portland and think of bus lines to help the clients get to the clinics that we suggested. I have no idea if we were effective… and sometimes I felt like there really wasn’t a lot that I could do. But at least I learned that. At least I was enlightened to that fact that it’s not always plain and simple… often times its complicated and there’s no clear cut solution. But as a future nurse, it’s important that I know this and try to connect my clients/patients with resources that can actually help them.
I have learned so much through iCHEE and would recommend it to any other students who want to have a great experience! I definitely feel like I will go forward from this point on with more cultural awareness, respect for diversity, and a concern for underserved populations.